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Certification for Student Affairs Educators

Supporting the Profession Professional Standards Division AVP or "Number Two" Mid-Level Senior Level VP for Student Affairs

Welcome to the Certification for Student Affairs Educators information page!

About Certification

Certification for student affairs educators offers exciting promise for both individual student affairs educators and the larger profession! The content here provides background information and updates about the development process for certification for student affairs educators (CSAE). 

The topic of student affairs certification has been explored by various professional associations over several years. NASPA most recently engaged in conversations about certification in both 2013 and 2019. The latter process included a survey to 8,700 participants, and 27 focus groups consisting of early career professionals and mid-level educators, vice presidents for student affairs, and graduate faculty. Several positive impressions and critical questions were raised about the potential for student affairs certification through this inquiry. 

In July 2019, the NASPA Board of Directors reviewed and discussed the results and analyses from the survey and focus groups, and voted to approve the initial development of a certification for student affairs educators. A task force was established to advise the certification development process. Dr. Laura Osteen, NASPA Professional Standards Division Director, was appointed to chair the task force, which consists of student affairs administrators and educators, graduate preparation faculty, and professional association representatives from ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, AFA, ASCA, NACA, NASPA, NIRSA, and NODA.

A sub-group of the task force has also been established to develop a code of ethics for certification. This group, chaired by Dr. Keegan Nichols, NASPA Professional Standards Division, also consists of student affairs administrators and educators, graduate preparation faculty, and professional association representatives.


Learn More

What is certification?

Certification is a voluntary process through which an organization grants recognition to an individual after verifying they have met certain, minimum requirements. To become certified, an individual must meet eligibility requirements and pass an assessment. Eligibility requirements generally include a minimum amount or level of training/education and years of work experience. Certification usually has ongoing requirements (such as continuing professional development) and a recertification process that need to be met over a designated period for the individual to maintain certification.

Certification is different from a certificate. A certificate program is also voluntary, and is a recognition of an individual’s learning of a designated content area, at a particular moment in time, by an organization. The individual must meet minimum criteria, including participation in a training or education program, and demonstrate comprehension of the program’s learning outcomes via passing an assessment. There are usually no ongoing requirements to maintain a certificate.

A quick way to understand the difference between certification and certificate is that certification focuses on verifying experiences and education obtained elsewhere, and assessing current knowledge and skills; a certificate focuses on educating individuals on intended learning outcomes and then assessing their attainment.

Source: Certification Simplified: A primer for staff and volunteer leaders.


What is the purpose of Certification for Student Affairs Educators?

A voluntary credential, student affairs educator certification holds tremendous potential to the overall student affairs profession; as well as to individuals who have already earned a master’s degree, spent several years working in higher education, and who seek a formal means of demonstrating their ongoing learning, competencies, and knowledge.

While various professional associations offer strong certificate programs, there is not currently a credential available to student affairs educators--who have already earned a master’s degree--to officially demonstrate the ongoing competencies, knowledge, and skills that are earned through ongoing professional experience and development. Certification can benefit student affairs educators seeking a robust credential to assist with professional advancement, as well as educators seeking to transition to new functional areas (as well as leadership roles encompassing multiple functional areas).



Who is eligible for certification?

Certification is a credential that will be available to student affairs educators who hold a master’s degree in a higher education-related field, or equivalent, and have at least five years of employment experience at a college or university. A pathway to certification will be available for student affairs educators (or those seeking to enter the field) who do not currently hold a master’s degree, and who have significant experience working at a college or university.

How is certification related to a graduate degree?

The certification development process regards a master’s degree as an established, foundational, and core credential for student affairs educators. Certification will be available as a voluntary “next step” for mid-level professionals, and above, who hold a master’s degree and/or have equivalent work experience, and are seeking a formal credential to demonstrate their ongoing knowledge and skills. Certification will complement a master’s degree without being an alternative to it.

Is Certification voluntary?

Yes. Certification is entirely voluntary.

What student affairs areas does certification cover?

Certification will include both general and specialty (functional) areas. General certification will include the competencies, tasks, knowledge, skills, and abilities of student affairs educators (mid-level and above) regardless of functional area. In addition to general student affairs education, individuals will be able to seek specialty certification in the areas of campus activities, college unions, collegiate recreation, fraternity and sorority life, housing and residential life, and student conduct.

Who is involved in developing certification?

A task force of student affairs educators, graduate faculty, and professional association representatives and staff were appointed by participating associations (ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, AFA, ASCA, NACA, NASPA, NIRSA, and NODA). The task force developed general student affairs educator certification content in the form of a practice profile-a draft of the tasks, competencies, knowledge, skills, and abilities of student affairs educators. 

Functional area groups were then convened for the areas of campus activities, college unions, collegiate recreation, fraternity and sorority life, housing and residential life, and student conduct. Group members were appointed by the respective functional area association. Each group identified and built additional content for their respective functional area upon the foundational practice profile for general student affairs educator certification.


What is a practice analysis?

The practice analysis is a survey to test the practice profile developed by the certification task force and functional area groups. It is intended to identify the essential tasks and competencies of student affairs educators--generally as well as within the six functional areas. The practice analysis for student affairs educators is a profession-wide survey encompassing multiple professional associations. The survey launched in mid-July and ended in August 2021.

What is the code of ethics?

It is an expected practice of certification programs to include an ethics statement. A Code of Ethics Development Committee (CEDC) has been convened as part of the certification development process. Members include student affairs educators, graduate faculty, and professional association representatives. The code of ethics development process includes review of existing professional student affairs ethics statements. Once finalized, the code of ethics will focus on the student affairs profession and not any unique functional area or association.Certified individuals will agree to adhere to the code of ethics as a requirement for maintaining their certification.

Which organization will grant certifications?

A new organization will be established to manage general and specialty area certifications. This organization will have formal relationships with student affairs associations collaborating to develop certification content, while also functioning as its own independent, 501(c)6 organization. The new organization will provide tools and resources for potential certificants. However, it will not provide professional development.

The certification organization will have its own governance structure, leadership, staff, and processes.



What will certification cost?

Cost considerations and equity in access are priorities in certification development. Certification budgets and financials are being developed in conjunction with the creation of the certification organization. Specific costs for certification applications and maintenance will be shared as certification program development commences.

What is the timeline for certification?

Eligible student affairs educators should expect to begin to apply for certification in Spring 2022.

How do I get more information about certification?

Continue to visit this webpage. Email [email protected] with questions anytime!

Where can I get additional resources?

The NASPA publication, Supervised Practice, is a great resource for student affairs educators looking to learn more about professional competencies. This book explores how to create the conditions necessary for supervised practice and the graduate academic curriculum to be a seamless learning experience.